She might be best known for her pizzas, pastas, breads, and salads, but Nancy Silverton loves a good burger. For years, she’s hosted regular burger parties at her home in Windsor Square, but she’s never served one at any of her current restaurants—until now. Looking to expand the pandemic takeout options at Chi Spacca, Silverton recently added a burger to the menu. “Everyone is so bored, they’re looking for something new,” she says.
As one would expect, it’s not just any old meat-and-bun concoction but rather a precisely conceived to-go meal from the detail-obsessed chef. Here, a look at everything that goes into the Chi Spacca burger.
The restaurant grinds a blend of chuck, brisket, dry-aged beef trim, dry-aged beef fat, and fat from around the kidneys for optimal flavor and texture. “There’s a little bit of funk to it, but it’s not overly funky,” says Silverton. It’s liberally seasoned with salt and pepper—“Too many people don’t season their meat enough”—packed loosely, and cooked rare on an almondwood-fired grill. “The most important thing is that, if you bite into it and don’t end up with half of the juices ruining your shorts, then we have not done our job,” says Silverton.
Though she founded La Brea Bakery and is famous for her way with carbs, Silverton doesn’t make her own buns. “The most important part of a great hamburger is that the bun is not homemade,” she says. Instead, she prefers Martin’s “Big Marty’s” buns because of their sesame seed coating and perfect dimensions for her seven-ounce burger. “The ratio and the texture between the bun and the meat is probably the most important marriage in a hamburger,” she says.
Silverton is relatively flexible when it comes to cheese. Here, she uses extra sharp cheddar, but she says, “I also like American cheese, and I’ve been known to use gouda.”
“A great hamburger is a well-lubricated hamburger, and that lubrication does not involve ketchup—it’s too sweet,” she says. Instead, she prefers mayonnaise or aioli on both buns. On this particular specimen, she uses a slightly spicy Calabrian-chili-and-mint aioli.
“Anyone who uses arugula or any other kind of lettuce besides iceberg needs to rethink it,” Silverton says. The lettuce, she says, is all about adding crisp texture, and only iceberg does that adequately.
Dietz & Watson’s kosher cukes are just crisp enough. “It’s not a new pickle,” Silverton says, “but it’s still got a little bit of crunch.”
Silverton makes what she calls “burger onions” by cooking thickly sliced yellow alliums in butter, water, and fresh thyme until they take on a bit of color but don’t caramelize. “They remind me of the onions on the old-school patty melt that I used to eat at Ships Coffee Shop on La Cienega,” she says.
Simple beefsteak tomatoes are sliced and seasoned with salt.
The burger ($16 with fries) is available only for takeout on Saturdays from 11:30 to 2 p.m. at Chi Spacca. They often sell out, but you can preorder by phone. 6610 Melrose Ave., Hancock Park, chispacca.com, 323-297-1130.
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